St. Alberto Hurtado: A Saint for Garment Justice

Before entering the Jesuits, St. Alberto Hurtado discovered his vocation working in a poor neighborhood of Santiago, Chile. One of his great works was founding, in that neighborhood, the Hogar de CristoChile’s first homeless shelter. He began volunteering at a parish and school in the neighborhood while in high school. His law school thesis, El trabajo a domicilio (Work at home),  applied Catholic Social Teaching to women who sewed button holes at home. He concluded that they were grossly underpaid, an injustice according to church teachings. A 2005 Chilean film tells the story of Alberto’s youth up to his entrance into the Jesuits, highlighting his personal conversion while writing the thesis. The film, “Alberto: ¿Quién sabe cuánto cuesta hacer un ojal?,”(Alberto: Who knows how much it costs to make a button hole?) can be found in Spanish on YouTube here.

An inspiring writer, preacher, teacher, and retreat master, St. Alberto Hurtado led a life distinguished as a patron of youth and the poor and workers. His 1941 book, ¿Es Chile un país Católico? (Is Chile a Catholic Country?), raised an uncommon question for a country that registered at 94% Catholic. His surprising conclusion was “no, not yet” as the church was distant from the poor and so much of Catholic Social Teaching remained unpracticed.

Inspired by Catholic Social Teaching, St. Alberto Hurtado founded the Chilean Trade Union Association, meant to train leaders and instill Christian values in the labor unions of his country. For them he wrote three books: Social Humanism (1947), The Christian Social Order (1947) and Trade Unions (1950). To disseminate the social teaching of the Church and help Christians reflect and act on the serious social problems faced by the country, he founded the periodical Mensaje (“Message”) in 1951. He himself published numerous articles and books on labor issues in relation to Catholic practice.

St. Alberto Hurtado’s earthly life concluded on August 18, 1952, dying of pancreatic cancer at the age of 51 years old. In 2005, he became Chile’s second canonized saint.

Prayer from the Eucharist for his feast day

Lord Jesus Christ, who commanded us to love and to love our neighbors, we pray that you would fill is with the desire and courage to love and serve others as Saint Alberto Hurtado did. Help us to hear the cries of the poor and the suffering and to see your blessed face in the face of those who are often left out in our modern world. Like a lighthouse shining its hopeful light out into the vast ocean, lead us to share the hopeful message of your love with those who are caught in the rough waters of life.

Prayer to St. Alberto Hurtado

Saint Alberto Hurtado, Apostle of Jesus Christ,
Devoted servant of the poor,
Friend of children,
And teach of youth.
We bless and thank our God
For the time you spent among us.

You knew how to love and serve.
You were a prophet of justice and a
Refuge for the needy and forsaken.
With tender love you built a home
to shelter Christ.

As a true father
You call us to live our faith,
Responsibly, honestly and fraternally.

You guide us with enthusiasm
to follow in the steps of the Master.
You lead us to the Savior
for which the whole world longs.

Teach us to live joyfully,
even in the midst of difficulties.
Show us how to overcome our selfishness,
to live our lives for the sake of others.

St. Alberto Hurtado, son of Mary, son of the Church,
friend of God and of all people,
pray for us.